Today, the Knowledge Centre on Cancer is launching a new section of the European Cancer Information System (ECIS), with indicators on the extent and types of cancers affecting children (aged 0-19) in Europe.
According to ECIS estimates referenced in the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, there were almost 16,000 children diagnosed with cancer in 2020. One in every 300 children born that year are likely to develop cancer by the age of 19.
While there have been vast improvements in cancer survival for children in Europe in recent years, sadly around 2,000 are estimated to have died from the disease in 2020. It is the number one cause of death by disease in children aged over one.
While these numbers are undoubtedly high, childhood cancers are still ‘rare’ from a scientific perspective. This means that pooling data from across countries and regions in Europe can lead to big improvements in diagnosis, treatment and care by making it much easier to analyse and compare the data, and share good practices.
The new European ‘childhood incidence data’ section of the European Cancer Information System brings that data together from across Europe, so that policymakers and stakeholders in Member States will be able to better monitor trends and outcomes for different diagnostic groups of childhood cancer. It adds to the existing information on the ECIS, with indicators to explore cancer data across Europe’s countries and regions, in different age groups, over time.
Insights on childhood cancer
The data shows that the three most common types of cancer in children across Europe are leukaemia, tumours of the central nervous system, and lymphomas. While this is constant across Europe’s countries and regions, it is quite different to the most common types of cancer affecting adults (breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, colorectal cancer and lung cancer).
With this in mind, the new section on childhood cancers classifies the data using the most recent edition of the International Classification of Childhood Cancer. Due to the characteristics of childhood tumours, this classification emphasises ‘tumour morphology’ (the type of tumour and its behaviour) over ‘primary site’ (the original organ or tissue where the cancer began).
At the moment, indicators are presented with figures from a 2015 data call, which collected information from 107 ‘all-age’ cancer registries and six child-specific cancer registries, spanning 24 EU countries. A new data call is expected to be concluded in 2022, from which the figures will be updated.
The European Cancer Information System is developed by the JRC, together with the European Network of Cancer Registries (ENCR).
EU action on cancer
The new section of childhood cancer incidence data is part of the Knowledge Centre on Cancer, a flagship initiative of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. With a budget of €4 billion the Plan addresses cancer in an integrated, health-in-all-policies and multi-stakeholder approach.
It puts childhood cancer under the spotlight through policy actions, research efforts and funding on prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and quality of life of cancer patients and survivors.
By supporting the uptake of accurate and up-to-date knowledge about cancer, the Knowledge Centre also contributes to the Horizon Europe Mission on Cancer to achieve by 2030, more than 3 million lives saved, living longer and better.
By helping to improve outcomes for children diagnosed with cancer, the indicators on childhood cancer incidence also contribute to the aims of the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, which includes several actions to promote inclusive and child-friendly health systems. It is the first ever EU comprehensive strategy to have been developed by the Commission for and with children.
- 6 December 2021